Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Speech Has Woodbine Wrought

In reviewing an article about the proposed legislation "that would require the State Highway Administration to create a permit program allowing individuals and organizations to display American flags in traffic roundabouts", I noticed the following quote:
"[The SHA] also expressed concern that the bill is not 'content neutral' — it would allow for flags to be flown but not other items — and would raise 'a likely challenge under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.'"

This is a textbook example of Pandora's Box legislation.  Prescribing a certain type of speech on public land is dangerous, regardless of "noble intent."  I understand that previous commentators have been told that "if you are against this legislation, you are against America."  I welcome the comments.  My concern, and one I would represent to the good folks of Western Howard County, is that once this bill passes, your roundabout is no longer yours to control.  I think we all would like to imagine a garden of American Flags, but that's not how free speech works.  You don't get what you want.  The thing about speech is that it only needs protection when it is otherwise unwanted.  Intermixed with your flags may be athiest promotion, political signs, and, unquestionably, signs about the nearest open house.

In fact, if I were you, I would keep government out of it.  SHA can remove your flags at its own peril.  No one is going to pass a law prohibiting the removal of the Northrop Team.